One of the biggest challenges for parents (and me) is to keep up with the hundreds of new apps that seem to pop up every day. In traveling the country every day talking to students about their technology use, I have the advantage of hearing about these new apps first-hand; everywhere in the country there are different trends, and kids of all ages are excitedly telling me about new apps and even resurrecting old ones. For me, it’s imperative that we learn about these apps (kids are an even better resource than Google in most instances), and determine appropriateness. It’s important that we’re trying as hard as possible to stay on top of these apps so that we can help to promote a safe and positive experience for our kids.

Some Are Off Limits
One of my biggest messages to kids and parents is this: We are fortunate to be living in a time where we have millions of apps at our disposal that are absolutely fun, positive, appropriate and awesome. However, there are a handful of apps out there that really aren’t appropriate (or made for) teens and tweens. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been a bit concerned about how many of these apps young kids are using. This past week, for example, there were a bunch of 6th grade students who admitted to actively using Tinder – which is not only inappropriate, but potentially dangerous. Serving as a “hook-up” app for people over 18, it’s groups people based on geographic location and common matches. While I’m constantly looking to put a positive spin and support kids in their broad technology use, this is unquestionably something I wouldn’t allow. Other apps students have recently admitted to using have been Hot or Not, and Street Chat – both of which are flooded with inappropriate and nasty content, entirely unnecessary or beneficial for kids to be using.

Kids Need Your Help
Most of the middle school kids that I talked to who admitted to using Tinder, didn’t even fully understand how it worked – and were creeped out when I clued them in. Developmentally, kids aren’t typically wired to always make the best decisions; with access to devices that have these new and buzzed-about apps, they often jump in without fully understanding how they work. When asking 8th graders yesterday to give me examples of some of apps they were using, one student responded, “I just downloaded Tinder because most of my friends have it, but I seriously don’t even know what it does.” Technologically speaking, our kids may be far better navigating this digital world, but they still need decision-making help once in a while.

What Parents Can Do
I entirely understand how overwhelming it can be to keep up – but we need to! It’s easier than it looks, and can be a good way to spark and continue this important conversation with our kids about their tech use and responsibility, making good decisions, etc. One great option is sharing an account so that whenever your child downloads an app, you get notified. Another option is giving them their own account but maintaining the password to it, so whenever they want to download an app they need to come to you first. This option allows you to have a quick conversation around what the app may be, and check in on appropriateness – it also shows your kids that you’re paying attention, which isn’t a bad thing!

It’s important that we help our kids find the positive and constructive apps, while steering them away from the handful of apps that aren’t at all productive, age-appropriate or safe.